Getting To Know: North Carolina A&T State University
North Carolina A&T State University was the fourth school that I visited during my North Carolina college tour. With over 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students, it is the largest Historically Black University in the country. The university is located in Greensboro, the third largest city in North Carolina after Charlotte and Raleigh. However, the campus has a more suburban feel, even at the outskirts.
North Carolina A&T is one of two Land Grant universities in North Carolina, the other being North Carolina State. In addition to the main campus that I toured, North Carolina A&T also operates a farm with nearly 500 acres. North Carolina A&T has awarded more undergraduate degrees to Black veterinarians than any other school. The university also houses just over half (52%) of its student body, high for a state university, and will add 450 new beds on campus. The campus is open with several attractive buildings. I dropped a photo of the student center interior below and made a Pinterest page.
The most interesting aspect of the campus was the robots who deliver food from the dining hall to the students. Like humans they run into “road blocks” as they make their deliveries on campus and stop to avoid larger vehicles..
Not only has the university taken this initiative at robotics; it is also the first school to have a rural test track for autonomous (self-driving) cars.
Founded in 1891, North Carolina A&T originally offered education in agriculture, horticulture, English and mathematics.
Today, the university offers 59 majors in eight undergraduate schools. However, it offers only 18 minors. The education can be a tough ride in some majors. For example,
- Admission to the upper division of the traditional Bachelors in Nursing requires a 2.8 minimum GPA in first and second-year courses
- While A&T uses a grading scale with a C- grade engineering students must maintain a C grade in key courses. They are allowed to retake courses, with limitations. The C grade also applies to prerequisites in Computer Science. To lend perspective, North Carolina State will accept a C- grade in some required courses in engineering and computer science.
A tough ride is a positive. It shows that students must work to earn the best grades they can and set standards for themselves.
But it also means that students might need to retake courses to earn the C or minimum GPA or take new courses to start a new major. North Carolina A&T’s freshman retention rate reached 80 percent for the Class of 2023 up from 72 percent for the Class of 2013. However, the the four and six-grad rates are more similar to a regional commuter school. I strongly recommend that prospective students who like this school ask about academic advising and support before depositing. The university also offers a program, Aggies at the Goal Line, to help Aggies who left campus to return to school and complete their degrees.
Those who can do the work have better access to research opportunities with the faculty than they might have received at a larger school such as North Carolina State. Larger schools would become more engaged with graduate students in research. However, there are fewer than 1,600 graduate students at North Carolina A&T.
North Carolina A&T’s chancellor, Dr. Harold Martin, is the first alumnus to lead the university.
Since Dr. Martin took office in 2009, North Carolina A&T’s undergraduate enrollment has grown from 10,600 (Fall 2009) to 12,500 (Spring 2023).
- Freshman classes have grown from just under 2,000 in Fall, 2016 to nearly 3,100 for Fall, 2022.
- The average high school GPA has risen from 3.48 to 3.77. For non-residents, the average GPA was close to 4.0 (weighted)
- Health Sciences attracted a quarter of the current freshman class; these programs were not offered in 2016
- Engineering attracted 15 percent of the current class, about the same as it did in 2016.
- The endowment rose from $28 million in FY 2012 to $158 million in August of 2021. This means more scholarships and academic opportunities are available to the undergraduate student body.
- Costs of attendance have remained competitive. The estimate for North Carolina residents living on campus, according to College Navigator is less than $20,000. For non-residents it is less than $33,000.
- Nearly 30 percent of the undergraduate student body comes from outside North Carolina
- North Carolina A&T is a Historically Black University, but 20 percent of the students are a diverse mix of other racial backgrounds.
However, the university has some issues to resolve.
While North Carolina A&T’s undergraduate population has grown rapidly since Dr. Martin became Chancellor, housing was the most-mentioned complaint when I read Niche student reviews about this school after I came home. Dining on campus was also an oft-mentioned negative. Campus and community safety has been a more recent concern, with a long public briefing in April that is worth hearing. That briefing, led by Chancellor Martin, also covers the housing issues. To be fair, the Chancellor and his team faced their public with succinct answers.
Admissions to North Carolina A&T are test optional.
The average SAT (1050) and ACT (20) scores are low considering the rigor of several of the academic programs, but higher than average (16 ACT) for Historically Black College and Universities. Florida A&M, the most similar public HBCU in a test-mandatory state, had median scores of 1080 and 19.
The university expects all incoming freshman to have four years of mathematics, up to Pre-Calculus or Calculus. There is no minimum GPA for admission, aside from higher standards for the engineering, nursing and business programs.Over 40 percent of applications to the Class of 2026 were denied. That says more about the increased interest in North Carolina A&T than anything else.
North Carolina A&T has many distinguished alumni.
The most notable to me is civil rights leader and former Presidential candidate, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. Jackson’s son, Jesse Jr., who represented Illinois’ Second Congressional District is also an alumnus, as is his son, Jonathan.
The university hosts a homecoming celebration that must be seen, at least on YouTube, to be believed. Called The Greatest Homecoming on Earth (GHOE), it recently featured three concerts and a sold-out football game–and meant $20 million to the local economy! If you listen to some of the university’s YouTubes, you will hear students and alumni shout Aggie Pride that’s more than a spirit yell. It is also an acronym for Achieving Great Goals In Everything. Producing Renowned Individuals Dedicated to Excellence.
Athletics are important here.
North Carolina A&T recently moved from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, a sports conference whose members are Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). It joined Hampton University (VA) as the second HBCU in the conference. North Carolina A&T will play all sports, including football but excluding women’s bowling, in the CAA in 2023. The 2022 football schedule, where the Aggies went 7-4 in the Big South Conference, included four games against HBCUs. The 2023 schedule will feature three, with two on the road. Former New England Patriot linebacker and William & Mary assistant Vincent Brown, an HBCU graduate (Mississippi Valley State) became head coach in January.
North Carolina A&T also has a large football stadium for the CAA with 21,500 seats. So rivals will be happy with their gate receipts. The opportunity for North Carolina A&T to dominate a conference of Predominantly White Institutions cannot be overlooked, but rivalries with other HBCUs, especially Howard, will go away.
North Carolina A&T has prominent athletic alumni.
Two, interestingly enough, hail from my home state, New Jersey. Elvin Bethea, a native of Trenton, was the first Aggie to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a 16-year NFL career with the Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans). Aside from Bethea, 37 Aggies have played in the NFL. One, Dwaine Board, earned three Super Bowl rings as a player with san Francisco 49ers and a fourth as an assistant coach.
Al Attles, who came to A&T from Newark, has been a four-time NBA champion as a player and executive with the Golden State Warriors. He is also a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as well as the recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award. More recently, two-time NBA champion, J.R Smith entered the university as a 36 year old freshman who also made the golf team. He has produced several YouTubes of his experiences at North Carolina A&T and excelled academically.
In addition, women’s basketball and bowling have been athletic success stories on this campus.
If you visit campus, you will learn about the Greensboro Four.
In 1960, four A&T freshmen, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond, staged a sit-in at a lunch counter at a Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro. They protested segregation laws that prevented Black patrons from dining with White patrons in public places. A statue commemorating the Greensboro Four (photo below) is at the front door of campus. Each member of the Greensboro Four has a residence hall on campus named for him. McNeil would go on to serve in the U.S. Air Force, reaching the rank of Major General. McCain would later become a trustee of the university as well as the University of North Carolina System.
There is also a memorial to a 1969 shooting on campus
Greensboro was one of the centers of Black activism in the late 1960’s. In May, 1969, Claude Barnes, a Black junior at James B. Dudley High School, was elected student body president, though the high school’s administration overturned the election results. North Carolina A&T students joined in protesting the school administration’s decision off campus, then on campus. National Guardmen came on campus to quash the protest, first by firing tear gas and pepper spray, then had snipers fire into the crowd and buildings. One student was killed and bullets were fired into one residence hall, Scott Hall. This piece of a bulleted wall serves as part of the memorial to the shooting.
My visit to North Carolina A&T reminded me of a past visit to Georgia Tech. It’s a rigorous school with considerable pride and spirit that is trying very hard to address demand for high-demand majors. Unlike other public universities that have Impacted or restricted admissions to such majors, North Carolina A&T gives students a fighting chance to earn their degree. I also appreciate and respect the importance of the university to the Black community in America as well as the Civil Rights Movement. Further, I listened to enough YouTubes produced by the school and independently to realize that students and alumni really love this place or at least want to love it. That says a lot for a public university.
However, North Carolina A&T can be a very tough academic ride if you are not prepared to do the work. I am giving the university an Incomplete on the graduation rate because the prepared students who finish appear to be ably rewarded when they hit the job market or get into graduate and professional schools..
Report Card: North Carolina State University
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: Incomplete
- Freshman Retention: B
- Costs: A
- Curriculum: A
- Community: A
- Comforts: B
- Connections: A
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